How can youth performing art groups get on stage at Disney?


October 16, 2017, 10:58 AM · Ever see a group of kids performing on a stage when walking through the Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resort? Or see a school marching band on Main Street before a parade? Ever wonder how those kids got the opportunity to perform at Disney?

Yesterday at Disney California Adventure, my wife’s violin student group performed on the Hollywood Backlot Stage, as part of Disneyland’s Community Arts Showcase. The Community Arts Showcase provides one of several ways that youth music groups can get the opportunity to perform at the Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resorts.

My wife’s group, Suzuki Talent Education of Pasadena, applied for the opportunity last spring, during the narrow, one-month window each year that Disneyland accepts applications for the Community Arts Showcase. The group had to submit a video audition as well as a written application. Disney accepts these applications only from “education and community-based” performing arts groups with 15-50 performers age 7 and older in Southern California.

Disney schedules performances on the Hollywood Backlot Stage in the fall and winter. Performers each get a complimentary one-day ticket to Disney California Adventure to enjoy on the day of their performance. Up to two directors and one chaperone for each 10 youth performers get a free ticket, as well.

My wife’s group were young violinists, so of course they all had to bring their violins into the park, not to mention a change of clothes from their concert dress. That meant that two parents with vans were given backstage passes to drive their instruments and backpacks to the staging area behind the Studio Catering Co. in Hollywood Land. The kids and their parents all went through the front gate and met Disney officials in Hollywood Land, who escorted the kids and the directors backstage to retrieve their instruments, change, tune and rehearse before the show.

After the show, it’s everything in reverse. Go backstage, change back, put away the instruments, and then parents drive the cases and backpacks either back home or out to one of the public parking lots, where they can leave them in the vans for the rest of the families’ day in the park.

Parents and siblings of the performers can buy discounted tickets at a group rate to see the kids perform in the park. (Those were $103 — a $7 discount from the $110 gate and online price for their performance date.)

It’s on those parent and sibling tickets that Disney makes some of its money back on supporting these performances, as groups typically bring dozens of spectators and supporters to their show. Then there’s the parking fees, food, drinks and merchandise that everyone spends money on when they visit, too.

But this isn’t just ticket scheme. The kids love the opportunity to perform at Disney, and the day is the highlight of the year for many in the group. The opportunity also challenges kids to get on top of their game.

Disney has a high standard for groups to get into the program. It demands a polished performance, and appearance, from participating groups. But Disney can be the carrot that inspires kids to welcome the extra rehearsals that lead to better performing and mastery of their instruments.

You could see the results of that hard work in the performance yesterday. The kids marched onto the stage with confidence and played through their songs with precision and an obvious sense of enjoyment… and pride. Their parents loved it, and you could tell that the kids did, too.

The Community Arts Showcase isn’t the only way for performers to get on stage at Disney. Disneyland also welcomes local choirs to perform at its annual Candlelight Processional, which will play on the weekend of December 2-3 this year. That opportunity is open to advanced mixed ensembles of at least 15 vocalists age 14 and older. Applications for Candlelight Processional are open from late August through early October.

But the largest avenue for young performers to get on stage at Disney is through the Disney Performing Arts program. The Disney Performing Arts program offers performance opportunities for instrumental, vocal, dance performers at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as instructional workshops for youth groups. However, unlike the Community Arts Showcase at Disneyland, there aren’t any free tickets available here. These are literal “pay to play” arrangements, with prices per performer listed on the Disney Performing Arts website. Performance opportunities include in-park parades and on-stage performances in the park and at Disney Springs.

Have you ever participated in a guest performance at a Disney theme park? Please share your experiences (and advice) in the comments.


-Article courtesy of Theme Park Insider and Robert Niles, October 2017



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Don Korta
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